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''Idol'' recap: Shock and awe

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Syesha Mercado, American Idol, ...

American Idol

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
15
performer:
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
broadcaster:
Fox
genre:
Reality TV

”Idol” recap: Shock and awe

Underneath those Crest-approved pearly whites and nice-guy veneer, Ryan Seacrest is one cruel dude.

Here I was, toasting what I figured would be Syesha Mercado’s inevitable exit with a cold, refreshing Sam Adams (hey, filling in for the mighty Mr. Slezak takes a wee bit of liquid courage, so please bear with me until Tuesday, when he’ll return to fulfill your American Idol needs), and Ryan has to go and tell me — in a notably brutal fashion — that Syesha would not be dancing out the door to the stylings of Ruben Studdard. Historically, Idol‘s eighth-place finisher has always been a contestant who is likable enough to cruise through the semifinals, but underwhelming enough to finish just below the middle of the pack (see: Turner, Nadia; Covington, Bucky; Scarnato, Haley). Syesha would have fit in perfectly with such a group — her respectable vocals, polarizing performances, and slightly off-putting personality practically screamed eighth place.

But holy cravats, Ryan! We were caught off guard by one of the first big surprises of the season (and no, I’m not counting David Archuleta’s Lennon-McCartney lyric botching, which the cynic inside me still maintains was a ploy for votes). Despite relentless producer pimping and a pair of bulging muscles the size of David A.’s head, Michael Johns drew the lowest number of votes and was sent home to rethink his fashion choices.

So what happened, TV Watchers? We can’t really blame the cravat, can we? Maybe it was the fact that the sexy Aussie’s performance was middling at best (that falsetto was more painful to hear than a Robin Williams comedy routine). Maybe it was the fact that Michael perpetually chose the wrong song. Or maybe Idol‘s big stage just isn’t kind to a contestant who performs best with a screen of fire backing him (to remind viewers, of course, that he’s HOT, HOT, HOT!). On top of all that, Michael was forced to sing in the dreaded opening performance slot, so perhaps it’s not too surprising that we lost season 7’s main piece of eye candy. Ryan, of course, didn’t help matters with that merciless little psych-out moment: ”Now, last year during Idol Gives Back, we didn’t eliminate anybody at this stage of the competition. Tonight…we’re going to say goodbye to Michael Johns.” Oh, Ryan. Who knew you were more deceptive than a pair of Carly Smithson false eyelashes?

Certainly the Aussie’s ”Dream On” song choice did him no favors, but maybe Michael’s ouster came down to his rock persona — which, judging by his performance record, seems as genuine as Robbie Carrico’s hair (maybe Robbie should have lent Michael his skull bandana for some extra-hardcore rock cred?). Reader To Steph wrote, ”The reason Michael Johns doesn’t work is that he’s TRYING to be a rock star, instead of BEING it. He’s putting up an act as real and I, for one, ain’t buying it.” Michael’s attempt to establish himself as a rock frontman is particularly puzzling when you consider his success during Dolly Parton week with the bluesy ”It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right.” And with the judges constantly pushing him to embrace his soul vibe, why in the world would he try to tackle Aerosmith, of all bands? I mean, even Kristy Lee listened to the judges and attempted to countrify herself during Lennon-McCartney week, albeit with disastrous consequences (though the performance did prove that she could adequately front a jug band).

NEXT PAGE: The ”pompous” David C. avoids the bottom three

And then, of course, there was Michael’s dreaded falsetto, which he failed to hit during his exit performance. As Josie wrote, ”I like Michael Johns, but animal-friendly he is not. My cat, who has ignored literally thousands of hours of television, including screams, all nature of animal noises and actual bird song, jerked upright and looked around confusedly at the moment he went into his ‘falsetto.”’ I’m not sure how my cat reacted to Michael’s vocals Tuesday night — she likely was too busy trying to find something to pee on — but the performance far from matched the magic of, say, Jason Castro’s ”Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Let’s face it, though. The dude had a good run, and provided a nice visual for the lady dialers. If I may channel Paula, we know He. Is. Michael. Johns. And he will likely enjoy a semi-successful career touring bars across America (or at least one in Paula’s living room). Dream on, buddy. Dream on.

In happier news, fans of the other two bottom-three dwellers, Syesha and Carly, will be glad to see the their favorites survive another week in the competition — despite the former’s uninspired take on Fantasia’s ”I Believe” and the latter’s horribly off-key, angry rendition of ”The Show Must Go On.” Eddy wrote, ”It’s unfortunate about Carly…she finally looked great. Even the tattoos didn’t prove a distraction this week. But she was completely overwhelmed by the arrangement of [the song] and seemed utterly lost.” It’s odd that Carly would flounder on a classic rock song; the genre has been her bread and butter throughout a good portion of the competition (”Come Together,” ”Crazy On You,” etc.). And though it’s difficult to get behind the woman who’s hailed as season 7’s most gifted vocal performer for whatever reason — some of you blame the desperation and tattoos — it would be a shame if we lost a talent so early in the competition. I’m not sure how Carly can ultimately nab America’s attention. (Flashing some extra smiles? Participating in a Civil War reenactment? A ponyhawk?) But it looks as though she’s got to think of something soon: Two trips to the bottom three over the course of four weeks does not bode well for our Irish lass.

One contestant who should’ve landed in the bottom three this week, purely by the virtue of his Tuesday-night performance, was David Cook, whose bizarre and ”pompous” delivery of ”Innocent” nearly cost him his front-runner status (cut to: David A. maniacally laughing and rubbing his hands together backstage). OverCOOKed wrote, ”David Cook already thinks he’s a celebrity doing an obnoxious public service message. Please, David, DO tell me more about global warming next!” Personally, I felt the palm message was a nice touch — most of the performances seemed to focus on the contestants hoping to achieve their own dreams, rather than truly helping others. And if not for David C.’s palm message, we wouldn’t have this brilliant comment from reader Anita: ”For a second, I thought the scrawling on David Cook’s hand would say ‘Not Penny’s Boat.”’ (Hmm…could David C. be the lost DriveShaft brother? I’ll leave any crazy time-traveling, network-crossing theories to Doc Jensen for now.)

NEXT PAGE: The American Idol presidential campaign stop

In Hell-freezing-over news, Kristy Lee Cook has somehow managed to go from a detested Sanjaya-in-training to America’s sweetheart in just a few short weeks. For once, she avoided the bottom three, and I’m sure her week-by-week unveiling of what is turning out to be a charmingly self-deprecating personality certainly didn’t hurt either (see: her amusing ”Kristy’s Seat” paper last week). Plus, she delivered a stellar, if a bit boring, performance Tuesday night of ”Anyway.” Reader Nikki wrote, ”It’s happening…I’ve morphed into a Kristy Lee fan!! I loved her last night — every bit of her. Vocals were perfect, outfit, poise — she’s a star suddenly!” I have to admit, I do find Kristy Lee amusing, but I just can’t seem to fully support her. You see, I’ve come to realize that the way I feel about Kristy Lee is the way I feel about picking up the dead cockroaches in my apartment: mildly disgusted, afraid that I’m growing too accustomed to said repulsion, and ultimately wondering if there’s some spray I could use to keep her away. But I should cut her some slack — she deserved to escape the bottom three this week, if only because Idol Gives Back neglected to donate anything to the ”Buy Kristy Lee’s Horse Back” cause.

Speaking of Idol Gives Back, let’s give credit where credit’s due: Despite a steep drop in ratings from last year’s charity event, Wednesday night’s show has already helped raise over $60 million for various causes. And though the program was a little reminiscent of American Dreamz, it was impressive that Idol Gives Back attracted the attention of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama. They appeared on Thursday’s telecast (in pre-taped form) to voice their support — or, in McCain’s case, to try his hand at comedy (”American Idol is a lot like a presidential primary election…except for people who live in Michigan and Florida, their votes actually count”). Looking at Barack Obama’s segment — in which he said he ”believes deeply in what tonight’s show is all about” — it’s clear the appearances were originally supposed to air during Wednesday’s program, because I can’t imagine Obama believes deeply in throwing Michael Johns out of the competition. Unless he just really hates The Doors.

Finally, were you all digging Jordin Sparks’ duet with Chris Brown as much as I was? It’s sad that the season 6 winner has yet to elevate herself to platinum-artist status, but I was feeling the fireworks between the two singers. And I find it funny that Jordin — who basically reenacted Kelly Clarkson’s ”A Moment Like This” victory when she won last season — is now rocking those red highlights, a la Kelly circa ”Thankful.”

Tell me, fellow Idol fiends, are you happy with your top seven? How do you think each will survive Mariah Carey week? Did you think it was a little pompous of David C. to ponder how many synonyms of ”pompous” Simon will dream up? Do you think Brooke was a too overconfident in thinking that she would miss her sister’s wedding because she’d stay in the competition? And does anyone in the world enjoy watching celebrities dance in a corny montage?

Aftershocks: See what Michael Johns told Jessica Shaw one day after getting voted out about his reaction to the result, Ryan’s tease, and what’s next for him in the EW.com American Idol exit Q&A